Let Evil Triumph – Raavan, Movie Review

Think of Mani Ratnam and you think of fine cinema. Almost unanimously, the director will receive praise for his celluloid masterpieces. Unfortunately his latest piece of art has attracted anything but praises. Ratnam’s modern interpretation of one of the most enigmatic and despised villains in India’s mythological history, Raavan, has been panned by the critics and the masses alike.

So, why do I choose to post a review of a movie that has been already deemed as a box-office failure. Simple, because I disagree with the opinions of these “connoisseurs” of fine cinema. Also, as a twitter acquaintance so eloquently put it, because I have fine taste!

Raavan, obviously, is the telling of the Ramayana from a different point of view, that of the antagonist. The movie focusses on the abduction of Ragini (our Sita portrayed by a rather composed Mrs. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) by the “Raavan” of the region, Beera (portrayed by Abhishek Bachchan), an outlaw who seems to be a Robin Hood to some while the Devil to most. Ram is none other than Ragini’s husband Dev Pratap (portrayed by southern star Vikram), a SP who has been in pursuit of the villanous Beera since long.

Beera’s motive behind the abduction is not made clear till much later in the movie, which, in my view, adds to the mystery of the story-telling. As the story unfolds, the underlying plot begins to come into focus. Once the motive behind Beera’s actions was revealed, I found myself rooting for the evil to win this battle for a change.

An aspect of the movie that truly enthralled me was the reversal in the roles of the two primary characters of this modern Ramayana. For those who have seen and read the Ramayana, to them Rama is the personification of absolute and pristine Good, while Ravana is exact opposite.
This interpretation, although a great way to sell morals to young minds, is a rather one-dimensional approach to the two personalities. Ratnam’s interpretation provides a more layered and realistic persona to these two. Dev Pratap’s almost ruthless dedication to apprehend his villain makes him less than noble on multiple occasions. His passion almost borders on villainy. Conversely, Beera’s purpose, his motive to commit these crimes, renders him a hero in the eyes of many.
Sacrifice, forgiveness and selflesness, traits that are associated with heroes are not exhibited by the modern Rama. On the contrary, in this story, Ravana exhibits them and then some!

Visually, the movie is SPECTACULAR. Sivan is truly the master craftsmen as he wields his weapon in the jungles of India. So masterful is his cinematography that the locations themselves become integral characters in the telling of the tale. As an amateur photographer, I found multiple frames simply breathtaking and inspiring. Despite being shot primarily in the wild jungle, there is not one shot that appears mundane or vile.

Rahman has had better soundtracks to his credit, but his compositions for Raavan would certainly rank in his top 10 works of al time. The lyrics to some of the some songs may seem downright absurd, but convey the on-screen emotions beautifully. My personal favorites are the track Beera and Behne De.

In terms of performances, Perhaps Bachchan Jr. did go overboard in certain scenes as he attempted to portray a schizophrenic character with both noble and villainous intentions. But there are certain scenes that simply resonated with his emotion. Aishwarya, to me seemed a tad loud at times (but then I find most women quite loud!), but managed to hold her ground and provided justice to her character. The modern day Rama as portrayed by Southern star Vikram,looking like a walking advertisement for aviator sunglasses, nails his character just right. Coming off as the supposed hero with all the flaws of a mortal being, Vikram did his part in getting the audience to hate him just a tad.

It is sad, that the movie was written off almost instantly and became the target of negative reviews. Perhaps the expectations were raised higher than usual considering the cast and crew. But even with all the hype, the movie does deliver in many departments. Technically the movie is flawless. In my view, Raavan is a movie worth watching, not on the idiot box, but in its full grandeur on the big screen.

So there you have it, my sincere take on Raavan. The movie may not be what most of you expected, but it sure makes for a great cinematic experience. My only regret was not catching this movie earlier and posting a review to counter the over zealous panning by the mass and social media.

Do yourself a favor, go catch this movie before it vanishes from the cinemas. You may just thank me later.

My Name Is Gandhi And I Am Not A Politician!

King Khan’s latest flick has been generating a huge buzz (no pun intended!). Even before it’s release, the movie enjoyed a whole lot of media attention for various reasons. The pairing of superstars Shahrukh & Kajol after a long hiatus was the movie’s calling card.

But more famous, or rather infamous was the war of words between Shahrukh and the Shiv Sena (ah yes once again the SS makes their way to my blog!). The tension between the two sides spiraled out of control and resulted in severe security measures taken by the Maharashtra State Police on the day of the release (Only to later realize that the real security was required outside a quaint bakery in Pune!).

The Movie has garnered favorable reviews from the critics (which doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a GREAT movie! Read my last post for proof of that!). But what the movie has also managed is strengthen SRK’s fan-following especially in the Islamic community. The question raised in the movie, as to why are all Muslims looked upon as terrorist suspects is worth debating.

Terrorism has plagued society since times immemorial. Over the ages, it has taken on many different forms. But only recently has the form been unmistakable. The 9/11 attacks painted all Muslims in the same color as the perpetrator of the said attacks. There were many factors that were to be considered when accessing the cause of the attacks. But it was Osama Bin Laden’s ethnicity, his skin color and his religion became the hallmarks of terrorism in the eyes of the western world.

Overnight being a brown skinned person meant you were the bad guy. If you had a turban on your head, you were damn well going to be interrogated and treated as a terrorist suspect. The Asians who were once friends became suspicious individuals for the Caucasian community.

Even today, the stigma hasn’t subsided entirely. People of Islamic Origin are still living under certain paranoia and fear. And if you’ve seen the videos from the infamous Guantamo Bay Prison, you wouldn’t blame them either. Although it’s been almost a decade since the events of 9/11, the ghosts of the past are still lingering among our present.

The movie, although not the best platform to communicate the message, still makes an honest attempt to highlight a very basic concept. They could be Khans, Khannas or even Kennedys, but generalizing an entire population based on the actions of a few is nothing short of discrimination.

My Name Is Gandhi, And I Am Not A Politician!

Kya Kiya Ishqiya?

Abhishek Chaubey’s directorial debut, Ishqiya has received rave reviews in the weeks since it’s release. Naturally I was keen on watching the movie, not just for the reviews, but because of the cast. With acting talents like Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi and Vidya Balan, the movie showed genuine promise. So I was very keen on catching this movie. To the extent that I was willing to watch the late show on a work day! Unfortunately, I am glad I didn’t!

With a star cast that is the who’s who of fine acting, Ishqiya had the potential to be one of the most critical successes of the new year. Instead, what you get is a steady momentum building up to nothing substantial.

What is perhaps the most disappointing, apart from other things, is the climax of the movie. I’m all for open endings in movies, but in Ishqiya it seems forced and doesn’t really add any value to the overall plot or storyline.

Even the stellar music, which has been doing the rounds of all music stations, doesn’t offer any respite. The funky number Ibn-E-Batuta is played as a background number as the opening credits roll. Seems like the music video we’ve been watching is either a teaser or was brutally chopped off on the editing table. However the other popular song, the soulful “Dil To Bachcha hai Ji” is beautifully rendered.

Credit should be given to the actors for their heartfelt rendition of the characters that they portray. The talent in the movie is apparent with each performer doing a bang-up job of staying true to their character. The wardrobe, language, locations and even the extra absolutely echo North-East India’s rural setting of the movie

The movie does have some good humor, such as the angle of the steel tycoon KK and his twisted love story. However these moments are too few and too far from each other.

The ONLY thing that left an impression on me was the passionate kissing scene between Arshad Warsi and Vidya Balan (yea, Naseeruddin doesn’t get the girl after all!). This is perhaps the most scintillating and long on screen “smooch” between lead actors in a Bollywood flick, well at least from what I recall.

What surprises me is that yet again the media has given undue praise for this flick and given it rave reviews in almost all leading newspapers. Ishqiya has been touted as the kind of movie Tarantino fans will adore. Perhaps they were referring to movies like the second volume of Kill Bill!

One Idiot To Rule Them All

In the Summer of 1988, cine-lovers were treated to yet another romantic flick from the Nasir Hussain Films banner, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. This one, a desi adaptation of William Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet, became a hit and ever since has been a staple on every movie channels romantic flick line-up.

But apart from the movie’s story and its popularity, there was another element to this flick that perhaps is more significant. QSQT marked the debut of Nasir’s young nephew, Aamir Khan. The ‘chocolate boy’ was a nationwide sensation with his charm and soft spoken persona and became the new kid on the Bollywood block.

Fast forward 21 years, that new kid is now one of the most commercially successful actors in the country. With a body of work that is more diverse than our nation’s population, Aamir Khan is an artist par excellence. His deep commitment to every project, that he is part of, is in a word, commendable. Khan has long shed the chocolate boy image and has since donned many different hats on and off the screen.

With his latest movie (well as an actor at least!) Aamir went all out with the publicity drive, to the extent that his personal blog dons the new movie’s theatrical poster on its home page.

He may not be considered as a superstar in the same way as his contemporary, Shahrukh Khan. But ask any decent film critic and he is certain to tell you that of the two, Aamir is definitely a true actor. And I agree. Aamir’s versatility and knack for perfection is apparent in every role that he has portrayed over the years.

Over the past two decades, Aamir Khan has been part of many movies, most of which have been absolute gems. But there are a few movies that I feel truly reflect this actor’s brilliant talent. Here are my top picks, starring Aamir ‘the actor’ Khan that any Khan fan must watch ~

Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar

Another hit from the Nasir Hussain Films banner, and yes another romantic flick. But this one is a high school romantic caper (possibly the only successful one!) and doesn’t end tragically unlike QSQT.

Khan is the spoiled younger sibling of a high school bicycling champion. Aamir’s wayward ways and despise for the sport and his gradual transition to becoming the new champion of the bicycling event forms the crux of the movie.

One of the many highlights of the movie is the musical number, ‘Pehla Nasha’, which is undeniably one of the most amorous and romantic songs to be ever written and composed in Indian cinema.

Andaz Apna Apna

A cult classic, this is the only movie in which Aamir shared screen space with another Khan, Salman to be precise. Aamir and Salman star as two hapless youngsters who are on their way to win the hand of a supposed NRI damsel.

Throughout the movie, the two Khan’s, Amar and Prem, are trying to one up each other. The plot gets many comical twists thanks to brilliant performances by the supporting cast which includes Paresh Rawal and Shakti Kapoor.

Although there is no coherent character to portray here, Aamir is at his slapstick best in this movie. With absolutely inane dialogues and equally inane comic situations, Aamir’s comic timing is commendable.

Rangeela

Okay, most of us probably only remember Urmila Matondkar’s steamy dance moves, but for those of you who actually saw the movie you would agree that Aamir was absolutely brilliant in this movie.

Aamir plays a typical Bambaiya bhai in this movie, who sells movie tickets for black and lives his life to the fullest. Khan has a crush on his friend, Minnie, who is an extra in the movie business but dreams of becoming a superstar someday.

Khan’s portrayal of a ‘tapori‘ became a benchmark for all wannabe ‘Munnabhais’ and is one of his most memorable roles till date.

Sarfarosh

Aamir plays ACP Ajay Singh Rathod, a senior police official investigating and eventually bringing down, with his team, the terrorist network plaguing the country. Khan shares the screen with Naseeruddin Shah, another fine actor, in this one.

The movie in itself is a rare gem, and Aamir gives one stellar performance with superb dialogue delivery. Khan’s character seems so grounded in reality that it is very easy to forget that he’s actually playing a part in a movie.

Lagaan

Now here’s a movie that is an absolute masterpiece! Lagaan is the story of how a village defied the then British ‘Raj’ and defeated the Queen’s men at their own national sport of cricket.

Aamir plays the village lad, who believes in the ideals of independence, freedom and equality and who leads his team of players to victory in this epic tale of good versus evil.

Khan’s commitment for the role was again apparent as he perfected his accent, diction and look to bring that authentic 19th century rural feel to his character.
The movie also marked Aamir’s foray into the production business and highlighted his strong business acumen.

Dil Chahta Hai

Another cult, classic, Farhan Akhtar’s directorial debut pitted Aamir with Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Khanna in a story about three friends and the ups and downs in their lives.

Khan plays a typical urban youth, who doesn’t believe in the concept commitments of any sort and lives life one day at a time. This is pretty cool considering that he was already way past 35 when he played the character.

Aamir’s witty dialogue delivery and knack for looking the part make this movie an absolute must watch for any Aamir fan!

Rang De Basanti

Director Rakeysh Mehra’s solo hit, here Khan is an Delhi University ex-student, who hangs out with his college friends.

Khan and his friends, enjoy the good life with a happy-go-lucky attitude until an event shatters their world. Their transition from the carefree to the brave and revolutionary is what Rang De Basanti is all about.

Despite being an ensemble movie, Khan is outstanding in this flick. His rendition of a typical Delhi student is uncanny Once again the actor in him surprises us all with his penchant for perfect diction and body language. Khan also lent his voice to a song in the movie. Now that’s what I call multifaceted!

Taare Zameen Par

Khan wasn’t the protagonist in this one as he made the transition from actor to director. TZP was a movie that dealt with a very sensitive topic, that of dyslexia among children and the society’s perception of the disorder. And Khan’s direction paid off as the movie enjoyed both critical and commercial success.

Khan’s many years as a fine actor are obvious as his direction captures the best from every actor in the movie. Damn even behind the camera, this man is a genius!

And now, the Khan is all set to entertain us once again with his rendition of a college student in Rajkumar Hirani’s  3 Idiots a cinematic adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s five point someone. I for one am definitely going to catch Khan’s latest (and probably blog about it as well!). I am still stunned that despite being 44, he is still managing to look younger than Sharman and Madhavan in the 3 Idiots promos!

Aamir Khan, an actor, a producer and a director par excellence. Truly, this Idiot deserves to be appreciated for his awesome talent and unparalleled genius.

Ajab Movie Ka Ghazab Review

What was touted as the romantic comedy of the year turned out to be yet another average flick. Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani disappoints cinema-goers with a lackluster plot and very predictable story.

Boy meets girl. Boy loves Girl. Boy becomes Girl’s best friend. Girl in love with Someone else. Boy willing to sacrifice love for Girl’s Happiness. Someone else not perfect match for Girl. Girl Realizes that Boy is true love. Boy and Girl confess heir love to each other and live happily ever after. That is APKGK in a nutshell. Okay maybe I’m being a little harsh. But the story is pretty ordinary with nothing terribly fresh to offer.

The movie is essentially a romantic comedy focusing on Prem (Ranbir Kapoor) and his love interest, Jenny (Katrina Kaif). The first half focuses on the attempts by Prem to express his love for Jenny. Barring a few scenes, this portion of the movie is a bore and makes you wonder where is it all heading? Post interval the pace picks up and so does the humor, but marginally. The movie does have its moments where the audience will crack up. My personal favorites were the dialogues between characters of Ranbir and that of his father (Darshan Zariwala).

The USP of the movie, apart from the director, is of course the lead pair. Both Ranbir and Katrina are part of the new generation of actors and are youth icons in their own right. Their appeal to the respective sexes (or whatever sex!) will definitely bring in the initial crowds. But alas eye-candy is not enough to fill the theater seats.

The young Kapoor is as dashing and as suave as can be, even when he plays a small town dreamy-eyed lad. Katrina, well her appeal lies on multiple levels, unfortunately none of them are related to “Good Acting”. This is yet another movie where the sexy lass fails to emote beyond a few scenes. However her performance seems Oscar worthy when compared with that of Upen Patel. Dude, seriously you were doing so good as a model!

If there is someone who manages to keep you from walking out of the theater, it is Ranbir Kapoor. The New Kapoor on the block proves his mettle with this movie as he manages to carry the rom-com almost single handed all the way through till the end.

Some may argue that the disappointment arises due to the inevitable comparison between APKGK and Santoshi’s comic masterpiece Andaz Apna Apna. True as that maybe, it doesn’t overshadow the fact that APKGK isn’t a very GREAT movie to begin with. One can’t even say that the story had great potential, since it isn’t a very original script. Santoshi has attempted to pull off a Jab We Met mixed with a little Namastey London garnished with a dash of his own Andaz Apna Apna. The result is one not very memorable romantic comedy.

One of the few things, that I liked, was the song and dance sequences. Most of the songs (well at least the ones that are doing the rounds of the radio chart toppers), have been beautifully shot. They have a very music video feel to them. I especially liked the number ‘Tera Hone Laga Hoo’. Although I still don’t understand why Santoshi insists on filming his naach-gaana outside India?

Surprisingly many newspaper critics have given rave reviews for the movie. I guess that just goes to show that everything is up for sale these days! Frankly, I’d say don’t waste your money to catch this movie with an overly priced multiplex ticket. Instead watch it as a matinee in a few weeks. Or better yet, wait for a month or two and some desperate satellite channel is bound to showcase this as their “Super hit” of the month.